MARA SEASON 2 EPISODE 4: KARLIE & ANDREW
Samia: This is Make America Relate Again, presented by Better Angels Media. I’m Samia Mounts.
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This week, I’m bringing you a conversation about one of the most polarizing issues in US politics: abortion. Karlie and Andrew are both scientists working in the field of neuroscience in Baltimore, MD. Karlie grew up in the suburbs of DC, in a fairly liberal family. She’s 24 years old and has a degree in biochemistry, and she also volunteers for a sexual abuse and domestic violence hotline. She’s super liberal socially, though she leans conservative on fiscal matters. Andrew grew up in a small town in Idaho, and was raised as a member of the Church of Latter Day Saints. He works in mental health and neurology research and plans to pursue a PhD to study mental health disorders. On the issue of abortion, his religious upbringing has influenced him to take a very conservative stance.
This is a heavy-ass topic for a lot of people, including myself. Let’s see how these two managed to find a way to relate to each other in spite of such a passionate difference of opinion.
Samia: Karlie and Andrew, thank you so much for being on Make America Relate Again.
Karlie: Thanks for having us.
Andrew: Yeah, thanks for having us. It's good to be here.
Samia: Why don't you both introduce yourselves so the listeners know a little bit about you and your voices before we really get rolling?
Karlie: I'm Karlie. I grew up in DC suburbs and now I live in Baltimore. I'm 24 and I work in a neuroscience research lab at a university.
Andrew: Hi. I'm Andrew. I grew up in a small town in Idaho, and I currently work at a research university in neuroscience research.
Samia: And you guys are here today to talk specifically about abortion rights in the United States. Andrew, how do you feel about abortion?
Andrew: My family is fairly conservative, so I grew up thinking that abortion is wrong and that abortion should be illegal. Life is important and valuable, and it's very important to protect the life of a fetus and the potential life of a fetus and an embryo.
Samia: And Karlie?
Karlie: I didn't grow up in any sort of religious context. I don't think my parents really raised me to have any one view on abortion but as I've come to form my own political opinions about things, I think that abortion should be available and legal to everybody that wants one before 23 or 24 weeks post-fertilization. The jury's still out a little bit on that. I would probably just ask, since I can try to understand the religious point of view, but I can't fully grasp it, because I am not religious. I just kind of want to understand how that comes into it. And then since we have the whole separation of church and state in America, what your reasons beyond religion are for thinking that abortion should be illegal?
Andrew: Well, I think that's a good question. I think actually for a long time I've had questions about my own religion. I've thought a lot about whether God exists and during a time where I was thinking about that I listened to this, I'm not sure if you've heard of Sam Harris. He's a neuroscientist. He also is a pretty popular speaker on different topics. He's a pretty outspoken atheist. And one of the talks he talked about was that you can create a moral philosophy without God. And that's an argument that a lot of religious people have, that you have to have God in order to have a moral philosophy. But he says that you can and it's based on evidence and that kind of thing. I think that makes a lot of sense. I think that you don't have to necessarily have God in the equation to believe that you need to protect the life of an embryo or a fetus. I think that for me it just really is the sanctity of life, that it's important to say that this is a human being. It's not been born yet, but this has the potential to become a human being and that that's something very important. Then when you begin to devalue the life of a human being, it's not really good for society. I think that we might have different views also on things like euthanasia and that kind of thing.
Karlie: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Andrew: But I think that when you start questioning the value of a life, it's not really great territory to be in.
Karlie: I assume you're talking about a life, provided that all goes well in the pregnancy? And, I mean, you probably know that a lot of pregnancies, before the first trimester is up, before the person sometimes even knows that they're pregnant, and in spontaneous abortion that the body does it itself. Do you feel that that's kind of nature's way of cleaning up something that it messed up along the way of gestation?
Andrew: I think for parents that want to be parents, those are very difficult experiences a lot of the time. I think that - I haven't had that experience personally. I don't have a lot of personal experience with it. I think I have known some people that have had spontaneous abortions and that kind of thing. From a religious standpoint, I might have my beliefs about how God - I believe, every person has a spirit. And maybe the spirit that was ready to come inhabit this body didn't need to come here for some reason. As far as spontaneous abortions, I think that's kind of what I think. As far as like... Maybe I'll just stop there.
Andrew: I'm not sure if you have any questions about like the health of the embryo or the fetus or anything like that?
Karlie: Yeah. That's, I think, another thing that I would ask, too. If a fetus is known to have health problems that would pose a risk to the fetus itself, the mother and put a really big financial and emotional strain on the family, so you feel also in that case that abortion is wrong?
Andrew: So I might not be as extreme in some of my views as a lot of people are. I don't like using the word extreme because it paints those people as having unreasonable perspectives or something like that. But personally, I think that abortion should be illegal except in cases of rape, incest and if it's going to endanger the health of the mother. I think as far as the health of the fetus or the embryo, one of the things that has contributed to my views on abortion is experiences with a nephew that had a neurodegenerative disorder. It was a genetic disorder. And they didn't know when he was born if he was going to have it. It took several years before he was diagnosed with it. But in college I wrote a research paper that was… I was thinking about prenatal diagnosis of different genetic disorders and that kind of thing. And that is a possibility. You can have a genetic test to see whether you have Downs Syndrome and that kind of thing, but they can also test for a lot of other genetic disorders. And the thing that I didn't like about prenatal diagnosis is that the only therapeutic option, and I think this might change down the road, but the only therapeutic option currently is abortion.
Karlie: Yeah, that's true.
Andrew: And for me, that is - for some people, they might say, "Well, if you're incredibly disabled or if you have all these challenges, your life isn't really worth living." But with my nephew, I saw that his life was very valuable. He was happy. I think it's hard to say whether a life is fulfilling, and whether that's grounds to terminate a life or not. And one of the papers that I read as I was writing this paper in college, thinking about prenatal diagnosis and genetic testing and abortion, one of the papers that I read was written by a disability rights activist. And one thing that they said is that the medical field is really ill-equipped to understand what it's like to live with a disability, and they're ill-equipped to help counsel parents about what the meaning of a life with a disability.
Karlie: That is totally true. 'Cause where I work we study autism. So I definitely agree with that. The medical field is really like, it is really ill-equipped to… Just the language we use and even the way we just talk about people with disabilities in general, and especially people that aren't neurotypicals. Not really caught up to the 21st century, I don't think. But I could probably ask you questions for the rest of the podcast. So if you want to ask me something, I think that's okay.
Andrew: Well, I mean, I'm fine if we keep asking questions. I think, for me, one of the questions I had is, when you said 23 or 24 weeks of gestation, why did you choose that number?
Karlie: The studies that I've read, and it's really hard to study human development in vivo, obviously, just because of laws and ethics we have surrounding that, the studies that I've read from the NIH and from the CDC, all of them point to the connections that are formed in the nervous system that allow the fetus to feel pain probably don't develop until about 23 to 24 weeks. And it's hard to really pinpoint it because, again, it's really hard to study. So that's why I think that especially first trimester abortions should be free and legal and accessible to everybody. Because I don't necessarily agree that life begins at fertilization, at a sperm and egg meeting.
Andrew: Okay. So is it when the embryo or the fetus, when it can perceive pain?
Karlie: Yeah. So I actually have some notes. I'm really glad you're in science too, so maybe I don't have to like super explain everything. But I read, it was a review from Derbyshire, from the NIH, and at seven weeks post-fertilization, free nerve endings start to develop. And that's the minimal required threshold for feeling pain and stuff. So by seven weeks you have the machinery that you're going to need later on to be able to feel pain and then respond to pain stimulus. But at this time, at seven weeks, there's no thalamic projections that have been developed yet. And that's a problem because you need an intact cortical system to be able to feel pain, and that's not developed yet. So the research that we have shows that at about 23 weeks post-fertilization, the thalamic projections that are needed to respond to a pain stimulus actually reach the cortical plate. And that's like the minimal… Once they reach the cortical plate, then the fetus can respond to a pain stimulus. So they take that to mean that the fetus can feel pain since it can respond. So that's what I've read. I mean, I'm not an expert, but that's from the NIH and it says that on the CDC, too. I try not to read info from like Planned Parenthood and stuff, even though when you research abortion things online that's the first thing that pops up. And I know Planned Parenthood is really controversial, so I try to stick to purely academic sources. I know it gets sticky when people interpret science from third and fourth, like it gets muddled every time it gets reported on. You know what I mean? So, yeah.
Andrew: Okay, yeah. I mean, to me it sounds like you're considering the pain that the fetus might feel.
Karlie: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Andrew: What about other things like consciousness or, I mean, and is it even really just based on the nervous system? And I know a lot of people that are more conservative generally say as soon as there's a heartbeat, which is really early on.
Karlie: It is, yeah.
Andrew: And is that a consideration at all?
Karlie: I think just because of my neuroscience background, I'm kind of biased as far as consciousness goes and when you're a person. I mean, I can't answer those questions. I can only speak from experiences that I've had, and thinking about the people that are already here. Because that's what I can see. I've known people that have gotten pregnant young and chosen to have the baby, and they're making it work. And I've also known people that have gotten pregnant young and have chosen to terminate the pregnancy. And I think it’s, ultimately, for me, I think it's up to the person that's already here to decide what happens to them.
Andrew: And then I guess the other question that I was thinking about, I imagine you believe that a fetus and an embryo, and beyond 23 and 24 weeks, it sounds like you think that it's a valuable thing that should be protected.
Karlie: Oh, yeah. I definitely don't think that third trimester and late term abortions should be legal unless the mother's life is in danger. And really most abortions are in the first and very early second trimester. The last Census data we have on this is from 2014. That's what the CDC said. I think it said that less than 2% of abortions that were taken into account in the United States were late term abortions. I'm sure it varies state to state, but that's not a very common thing.
Karlie: But, yeah, I definitely don't think that if a person waits till their third trimester and then decides, oh, I can't do this, that's, I think, crossing a little bit of a line.
Andrew: Okay. I do, I guess, have a lot of questions around that. 'Cause I think that that's the reason that you protect the fetus is because it's a person. It's valuable because it's a person, just like you are valuable, just like I am valuable. I mean, maybe it's a little different because they're not born, and in the case of a mother bearing a child, if it was going to endanger her life, then I think it should be up to the mother to decide, well, to decide on her own whether she should continue the pregnancy or not. I guess my question is, considering that the fetus is valuable and that life is valuable, how comfortable are you to let science determine when the point is that you can terminate a pregnancy or not? I think that a lot of people jump to this too quickly and it's not always an effective argument. But, I mean, a lot of people probably bring in eugenics and things like that about choosing who should live and who should die. I think that if you're ... How comfortable are you letting science make that determination? I mean, for me the ability to perceive pain or that kind of thing isn't the only thing that determines whether you're human or not.
Karlie: Well, I think it's a bit of a jump to cite eugenics. I think that's kind of a totally different thing. I'm comfortable with having science dictate when the threshold to when abortion should be legal because it's fact. It's been peer reviewed, it's been tested over and over again. And a person's religion, a person's morality, what people believe is all fine and good. And if you want to live your life a certain way, go ahead and do it. But when you're having the government dictate how a person should make these decisions based on religion, which it shouldn't be based on, or based on personal beliefs, I don't think those should be imposed upon other people.
Andrew: I think that those are the central issues.
Andrew: I feel like for me, the fetus and the embryo also has a right to have its own will. And it's a defenseless thing. It can't voice its opinion at the time. And I think that government is there in large part to protect people from stepping on each other's rights.
Karlie: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Andrew: And I think that that's one of the biggest issues about abortion, is that while it's important, I believe, for a woman to be able to decide when she has a baby, if she has a baby, and I think that there are measures to do that through contraception and those kinds of things, I think that the woman's right to choose doesn't mean that she can choose to end the life of another individual.
Karlie: So you're totally cool with Planned Parenthood, contraception for people. Like you have no problem with that?
Andrew: Yeah. Contraception is fine. I'm not as familiar with everything that Planned Parenthood does but, yeah, I think contraception is fine. And I think that a woman can decide when she wants to become pregnant.
Karlie: Mm-hmm (affirmative). So what about when contraception fails or some people who can get pregnant can't take a birth control pill? They can't have an IUD? There's some forms of contraception that don't work for people. What do you think about that? Like if it happens on accident, do you think that if someone accidentally gets pregnant and they don't want it, they should be required to carry it to term?
Andrew: I think so. And I think in the case of rape and incest, that's - they don't have the choice there. But I think that if they have sex, they know that that's a risk of having sex. They can take measures to try and prevent it, but I think that the right of the fetus and the embryo to live supersedes the woman's right to choose to abort that pregnancy. It doesn't supersede her right to use contraception or not have sex, or that kind of thing. But that's I think where the line is.
Samia: Really quick, I wanna jump in. One thing I have seen over and over from having these conversations is that there seems to be a difference between liberals and conservatives, where liberals really see abortion as a women's rights issue, and conservatives really see it as a human's rights or what I like to call baby's rights issue.
Karlie: Yeah, you actually put it into terms that I couldn't quite come to voice, so that's actually really good. I put mine and other people that can get pregnant rights before anything that is not born yet. And I think you put it maybe the opposite way.
Karlie: So like if people make these decisions and it leads to a pregnancy, then the right of the fetus comes first. We'll have to agree to never agree when it comes to that. But yeah, that's a really good way of putting it.
Andrew: That was the risk of coming in and talking, right?
Karlie: Yeah. So I'm just wondering, because you said you think it's okay in the case of rape and incest. And I think those terms get glossed over a lot when it comes to this conversation. Because rape, especially in today's climate, where the #MeToo movement is becoming more and more to the forefront of the conversation, that rape isn't just the scary stranger jumping out of the bushes and holding you down and raping you. It's your friend, it's someone you know, it's your boyfriend, it's year husband. And those kinds of sexual assaults, unfortunately, are harder to prove that they happened. It's a gray area that a lot of people don't want to talk about. It seems like the media kind of wants to paint people as either a Weinstein or an Aziz Ansari or something. And that there's no in between. But a lot of it, most of it is a gray area. So what do you think about rapes that happen like that?
Andrew: I think that's a really good question, one of the things I've thought about, and I've talked with my wife about this. And one of the things that she said that I thought made a lot of sense is, you figure out what is right and what is moral and good. I know that maybe you feel like it's kind of funny trying to make a moral argument out of it. But I do feel all right with the government trying to promote morality. I think that religion, and I guess this is kind of getting off topic. The government shouldn't enforce religion.
Karlie: Right, yeah.
Andrew: But as far as rape and that kind of thing that you were talking about. My wife said you figure out what's right and the rest is just logistics. And one of the things that I thought about before in questioning whether I was pro-life or pro-choice was that I wondered, in the cases that you're talking about where rape is a little bit more of a gray area. Do you mandate that they report it to the police or something like that? I know there are a lot of women who don't report rape, and it's a difficult thing. And I think that you could also have some women who would report falsely and those kinds of things, just so that they would have access to abortions.
Karlie: Right. So that's kind of my question. If we were to make it illegal, then logistically, how does that work?
Andrew: I think that's a good question. And this is, I think, one of the really important parts of people who disagree like we do, coming together and talking. Because I think that we can reach a consensus and then, because you have a different perspective than I do, we can also create policy that's much more effective at fulfilling the purpose of the policy. And helping protect women's choice to not get pregnant, and helping to protect the rights of an unborn child. I think that those are things that if people can talk with each other about their differing viewpoints, they can actually create better policy decisions. I think that that's something that people could figure out if we were able to talk about this issue.
Karlie: I agree with that in theory. It's just with the whole sexual assault thing, it's just not that easy. I've been sexually assaulted and I volunteer for a sexual assault and domestic violence hotline, so I talk to a lot of people who have been sexually assaulted. And it's just a way more complicated issue than I wish it was. I wish it was black and white but it's just not. I mean, there's so many wormholes we could go down with this discussion, because then you end up talking about specific situations for abortion and everything. So that's why I think that across the board it should be a woman's choice.
Andrew: I think I can understand that view. One of the things as I was considering whether I was pro-life or pro-choice is I heard people talk about how it's really difficult for women to decide whether they're gonna have an abortion. And as far as sexual assault goes, I'm really sorry for your experience. I have no idea what that's like. And I don't want to pretend, I don't want to minimize that experience-
Karlie: Yeah, absolutely.
Andrew: And that's why I said I don't really know the solution for that. But I do think that that's something that could be worked out if policy-makers were able to speak about that, if people, in general, were able to speak about their differences.
Karlie: You hear that, policy-makers?
Andrew: That's right, we're calling on you.
Samia: I actually really was interested, Karlie, in what you said a moment ago about volunteering for the sexual assault hotline, and how there's so many gray areas. And you said we could go down a wormhole with all the different kinds of examples that you come up with. And I think it might be interesting actually, to go down that wormhole a little bit. Do you have any specific situations you've encountered that might really provide a problem for somebody who is staunchly pro-life in sticking staunchly to that view?
Karlie: Sure. I can go about it in as vague of terms as I can. So I talked to this young woman, I believe she was at a school at a university, and she was hanging out with her friend in a dorm room or an apartment. And he made advances on her, and when she rejected them, he didn't take that too well. And then he raped her, and then she decided not to report it. Which was totally her choice. I haven't dealt with sexual assault on campus personally, but I have friends who have. And in their experience, going through the university's channels reporting sexual abuse, nothing got done. He wasn't punished, they made her recount her story multiple times, which is traumatic. And they suggested she go to the city police to recount her story again. But there wasn't any evidence, just her story. She waited too long to collect any evidence for herself. So if that girl I knew or if the person who called the hotline were to get pregnant from that, there is no way to prove that she was raped. Do you think that you have a solution for a situation like that? When there's no physical proof, you just have her story. It was only the girl and the guy, and it's her story against his story.
Samia: Right. So if abortion was illegal unless you could prove rape, in a case like that, there would be no legal abortion available to you. What is the solution for that?
Andrew: And I think that is a good question, and that's something I have thought about. I think in that case, and I think that in many cases, especially if you're trying to reach the 23 or 24 week limit or something. If you had some kind of time limit on it anyway, it would be difficult to litigate such things in that amount of time. I think that I don't know exactly what the law would be. One of the things I’ve thought about is that you just leave it up to the woman to decide whether she's going to say she was raped or not. And she doesn't have to necessarily even report it to the police or anything, and it doesn't have to be necessarily investigated. But it's up to the doctor, and I guess that for pro-life people that could be too flimsy of a standard. I think that people should be responsible and should be honest in their reports to the doctor and just honest in general. I do understand that that's a very difficult situation. And I think that I personally don't know that I would have the best solution to it, but that's one solution I’ve thought of, is it's between her doctor and her. If you can prove that a doctor is especially lenient and performing a lot of abortions that shouldn't necessarily be done, maybe you can prosecute the doctor. I'm not really sure what the solution would be. But those are the things that I thought of.
Karlie: You seem like a really super idealistic guy. And I don't want to call myself a nihilist but I'm almost there. So I think we kind of have different views of humanity in the world and how people act. So that's really interesting. But I have another question. So it's been shown in states and countries where abortion is made illegal or the access to abortion is really, really cut down, that the mortality rate from at-home, unsafe abortions really goes up. So it's hard, because you can see that decreasing access to abortion doesn't really decrease people seeking out abortions. You've probably never had a pregnancy scare. But if you have, I mean, I can only speak from my experience, you go through all of the options in your head. And if you don't have access to a safe and legal abortion, I could probably see myself like six years ago trying to seek out a way that I could do it that wasn't offered to me with a doctor in a safe environment. So it's horrible that these things happen, but what I'm trying to say is decreasing access to abortion doesn't decrease abortions. And it actually increases the mortality rate for these people that attempt to get them.
Andrew: For me, that's similar to the question of legalizing drugs or not. I think that right now we see that making drug abuse illegal doesn't necessarily make it so people don't die from using drugs. I think it's not necessarily... I don't know. I think that, and if we continue with the example of the war on drugs, we see that a lot of the strategies that we're using in the war on drugs aren't effective, that they're keeping people from treatment and things like that. And that perhaps if we change strategies, it would help people. And I think that's another example where if you talk about logistics, maybe you can help people with it. I've heard about hotlines that certain pro-choice people set up to give women a person to talk to if they're considering an abortion. I kind of like the idea of setting up hotlines for women who are considering an abortion to talk with someone who carried their pregnancy to term, and had the baby and wanted to keep the baby, and was glad that they made that decision. I think that personally, when you talk about the differences in nihilism or idealism, I guess, if you want to put it that way, I feel like you can try and regulate morality, you can try and write laws for every situation, and say, "This is how we're gonna regulate it." But the reason that I think that ideals are so important is because it's about more than just regulating behavior. It's about that if people themselves have values, that they'll live by those values. For me, the pro-life, pro-choice question isn't the most important question for me in elections necessarily. I think it is a very important question. With drugs, if you don't help people change themselves, you can't write any law that’s going to keep people from getting drugs. It's about helping people deal with their stressors in a healthy way. It's about helping people change themselves and be better people, I guess.
Karlie: I totally understand. I just want to go back to something you said about maybe setting up a hotline for someone who's struggling with the decision to get an abortion or not. And I think that's a totally good idea, and I was totally on board until you said, they can talk to a person who decided to carry the pregnancy to term. And I think that's really, really dangerous. For some people, getting an abortion is not traumatic for them. And then, for some people getting an abortion is a very hard decision to make, and extremely traumatic for them. And if you're in that state, trying to make a decision like that, that can change the course of the rest of your life. And the rest of your family's life, and the rest of the life that you'd be carrying to term. I think to have them talk to a person that has one view and isn't necessarily trying to convince them of something, but to say, "You know, I really struggled with the decision and I decided to carry my fetus to term. And they're born now and I would do it all over again." Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. I think that's dangerous, because you're already talking to a person who might be in an easily swayed state. I can only speak from my experience with the hotline that I volunteer at. We are trained to listen and provide a person with next steps and a safety plan for after they get off the phone. We're not allowed to give them any advice. We're not allowed to say, you should do this, you should do that. And I think it gets really sticky when you start telling people what you think you should do.
Andrew: Yeah, I guess I can appreciate that. I've worked with people that are in the mental health field, and they talk about how you don't tell people what to do, they have to figure out what they're going to do. I think maybe there are some considerations with that. But I think that, and I'm not sure if you would agree with this, I also think it would be wrong for a person to just get information from a person who is saying you should go through with an abortion. I had a discussion a while ago with a colleague who was pro-choice. And one of the things I kind of came to a realization there was that nobody's really pro-abortion, like saying, "Go get an abortion, go get an abortion."
Karlie: Oh, yeah.
Andrew: So I think that's something that's kind of lost in the conversation. I kind of wish that people who were pro-choice would talk more about the value of a life. And say, I'm not pro-abortion, I'm for allowing a woman to choose. I was watching a TED Talk, I forget who gave the TED Talk, but they were talking about this hotline that I was telling you about where a woman could call in and talk with someone who'd had an abortion. And I think that just like you wouldn't want someone to have only access to someone who's going to say, “Keep the baby.” I wouldn't want someone to have access to only someone who's going to say, “Terminate the pregnancy.” I think that if they're going to have access to one of those voices, they should have access, at least, to the other. Personally, I definitely go for the pro-life voice, but I think that I want... In this conversation, I want to hear more about the value of the life and the value of the fetus and the value of being a parent. I just think that there are a lot of good things that come from being a parent and from taking care of your child. I feel like, in general in society, there's a lot of talk of children as shackles, and as family as an impediment to your career and that kind of thing. Whereas for me, I believe that family is one of the most important things anyone can do, and that you can have the most meaningful experiences through your family.
Karlie: It's so hard, because we agree up until the very end, I feel like. And then we agree on so many things and it's like you go one way, I go the exact opposite way. It's just really interesting and I don't understand how it can be this way, but it's kind of cool.
Andrew: What did you disagree with?
Karlie: The only thing I disagree with you on, and I think that the conversation right now in the media is so polarized, and you either want to deny women all their rights or you're a baby-killer. Again, there's no gray area, because, I guess, that doesn't sell papers. So I think it's really good to have discussions like these, where we can discuss all the in-between. I just think that it comes down to, again, I think I value the people that are here already, and their decisions more, and I think you value the unborn fetus’s rights more. I think we're never going to change our minds on that, and that's where we disagree. I just think a lot more good can come into the world from allowing people that can get pregnant, that want to terminate their pregnancy, to terminate it. So I'm wondering... It seems like you're really on the side, on women's side, that it should be the choice of the woman and everything, but you still don't believe that abortions should be legal if somebody just decides they don't want to be pregnant anymore.
Andrew: Right. Right. For me, that's like saying I have the right to kill someone if I don't want them to be alive.
Karlie: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Andrew: I think that that's pretty much how I feel. I had some questions from what you were saying.
Karlie: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Andrew: One of the questions I have is, I feel like a lot of people that are pro-choice talk about advocating for women's rights, giving a voice to women. What do you think about... How do you think the unborn child should have a voice? Or what kind of voice do you think the unborn child should have?
Karlie: See, I don't consider it an unborn child up until the third trimester, again, so I think that's where we differ. I don't think that - a lot of times, people don't figure out they're pregnant until six or seven weeks, you're still in your first trimester then, but I don't think that a mass of cells has the same rights that a walking around, talking, thinking, conscious human does. And you know, I don't know if the fetus is conscious, I really don't, but again, I side with the people that are here already, not with what's inside.
Andrew: I guess one of my other questions then is, if a fetus is valuable, and I agree, we can't say exactly when consciousness starts, or that kind of thing, and I think that's one of the reasons it's important to err on the side of the unborn child, of a potential life, but I think that one of the questions I have is what about... I lost it.
Karlie: That's okay.
Samia: You know, you both just said we can't agree on when consciousness begins in a fetus, and because we don't know that and can't know that, and so far, science doesn't have a way to show that, that's why I, like Karlie, side with the living, breathing, walking, taking, woman that's already on the planet because I know she's conscious. And that's what makes it easy for me to side with the woman, because that knowledge is sure there, but with the fetus, it's unsure. And Andrew, it sounds like you were saying well because it's unsure, we have to be careful, we can't just legalize abortion for women like me, for example, who if I got pregnant, I know I don't want to have kids, I would choose an abortion. It wouldn't have to be rape or incest or sexual assault or anything like that. I would choose that for my life.
Samia: And it sounds like you're really erring on the side of caution whereas we're more erring on the side, well, what do we know? We know this, that a woman is conscious, we don't know about the fetus, so let's side with the woman.
Andrew: I think that is a big part of it. I think that's actually kind of the question that I was going to ask you, is I think that - we also know that the woman has the ability to choose, and also the ability to choose comes with consequences. I think about the consequences of terminating a pregnancy, I think that if a woman didn't terminate a pregnancy, the options after that, would be raise the child, or to put it up for adoption, or… I don't know if there are other options, really, but those are the two options. There would be discomfort and a lot of pain, and I don't want to minimize what women go through during pregnancy and childbirth, but I think that the consequences of allowing the pregnancy to go to term, it could potentially go a family who will really love it, and will really take care of it, and it could have an amazing life. Whereas if you terminate the pregnancy, that's not a possibility, and I think that's a huge consequence for me that you are ending a life. What do you think about those consequences, does that bother you?
Karlie: I can only speak for myself, but I've never had an abortion. But I have definitely sat in a chair and thought about what would happen if I got pregnant. So if I got pregnant, I would most likely choose to have an abortion. And that would not be an easy decision for me, it would be a hard decision for me, because I do value life, and obviously, when you're pregnant, you are carrying a life to some extent. It would be hard for me to make that decision, but that's what I would ultimately decide. If I were to carry it to term, I have the fear that since I myself struggle with anxiety and depression, that I don't know if I would be able to mentally, physically, emotionally, deal with carrying a child to term, a child that I knew logistically and emotionally that I didn't want. Maybe that would change if I became pregnant and decided to carry it to term, I don't know, but if I ended up having the kid, I would probably... I don't have the financial means to raise one, I would not be able to pay for daycare, I would probably end up having to quit my job, and then I don't know where I would get funds to raise it. I can't see my career going anywhere from there. I have a partner, but I'm a single person, we're long distance. I wouldn't be able to raise a child, and it would be very, very hard for me to carry a baby to term, have it, and then give it up. I think that's just who I am. So ultimately, I would terminate the pregnancy. It would be a hard decision for me, but I know that it would be the best decision for me, and ultimately, I'm important because I'm already here.
Andrew: Yeah, I agree you're important. And I think that those things can be true. I think that to a little bit you don't know what your situation's going to be in the future. I just think for me, if there is an opportunity for that baby to be put up for adoption, the life of that baby is worth a lot and I think that...
Karlie: And it's worth more than mine?
Andrew: I don't think that's the choice. If your life were in danger, where if you carried the baby to term you would die, I think that... Like I said, that would be a decision for you to decide whether you would carry the baby to term or not, but I think that that's not the choice. I just think that it is really important to recognize the potential life that is an embryo and is a fetus. And I think that pregnancy and childbirth are extremely difficult and giving up a child for adoption are extremely difficult, that life after the adoption or after the pregnancy, that life can be very meaningful, very valuable. And in that case for me, it's just hard to say that it's more important for a woman to be able to say, I'm going to end this pregnancy, than to protect the life of that person.
Karlie: But in essence, when it comes down to it, you are putting more value on the unborn child's life than on the woman's.
Andrew: I disagree with that. I think that, like I said, in the case where it could endanger your life, I think that that's the time where you can make the choice. I think that if it's about your career, I think that if it's about finances, I think there are other options.
Samia: I had one final question. We all value life, that's something we can agree on, and where we place that value, there are some differences there. So I guess my final question for both of you is should that decision about whether a pregnancy is carried to term or not in a situation where the woman's life is not in danger, should that decision be in the hands of the woman and her doctor and possibly her family or partner, or should that decision be in the hands of the government?
Andrew: I can go ahead. I envy Karlie for having the final word, but...
Karlie: You can say something after me, it's fine.
Andrew: I think for me, the role of government often is to protect one individual from infringing upon the rights of another individual. I think that for me, this is an example of that, where the rights of the fetus and the embryo, could be infringed upon by the rights of the mother. I think the right to life is one of the most important rights and I think that if someone's already alive, of course, you're not going to deprive them of the right to life. I know you could have a whole discussion about the death penalty and things like that, but the right to life is very valuable. I think that it's important, and I think that that's a case where it's alright for the government to say this is where the fetus is and the embryo's rights begin and this is where the mother's rights end.
Karlie: I would hope that the government has our best interests to the forefront of their minds. Unfortunately, with the current situation, I don't think that. So first of all, I'm not willing to have this Presidency, or even most of this Congress, make that decision because I don't think that... At least the Presidency doesn't value facts. Anyway, that's another podcast. Ultimately, I think that the choice should be left up to the individual who is considering whether or not they get an abortion. Period. End of sentence.
Samia: Karlie and Andrew, you have been fantastic. You've both made really valid points and I really appreciate the calm, measured, respectful way you've been delving into this really heavy personal, emotional, even spiritual, for many people, issue. Thank you so much for being on the show. Do either of you have any final thoughts?
Karlie: Thanks for having us, and it was a really good discussion and I'm glad I got to have it.
Andrew: Yeah, it's been good talking with you.
Samia: I hope that you came away with possibly some new understanding for each other's positions.
Karlie: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Andrew: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah.
Samia: And just the ability to have a conversation like this is such an achievement in this political climate, so thank you.
Andrew: Yeah. Yeah.
Karlie: Yeah, it's super good. I would like to have more political conversations that don't end in screaming and crying.
Andrew: These kinds of conversations are so important.
Samia: All right. Great. Thank you so much for being on the show.
Karlie: Thank you.
Andrew: Thank you.
Samia: As I was listening in on Karlie and Andrew, I was struck by how willing they both were to listen, to connect, and to present their positions as diplomatically as possible, without ever backing down from their principles. I received an email from Andrew after the session saying that the conversation gave him “a lot to think about.” For me, the issue of abortion is a simple one - the decision should be left to women and their doctors, and the government shouldn’t be involved. But listening to Andrew’s impassioned defense of the sanctity of life, as he sees it, I can understand the other side of this issue. I don’t agree, but I understand. And I can’t help but have respect for his feelings on the matter.
Of course, the major problem with making abortion illegal or difficult to obtain is that it’s been proven that women who want them will still seek them out, even if the law forbids it, even if the punishments or penalties are harsh and draconian. Women who want abortions will still try to get them, often in dangerous circumstances that put their health and life at risk. This is a point that Karlie brought up, that Andrew couldn’t fully address. So, conservative listeners, I’m interested in your thoughts on this. We know for sure that this happens, and this is why the conversation usually concludes with the realization that liberals value women’s lives over fetus’s lives, while conservatives see it the other way around. How do we get past this? If we know that making abortion illegal actually leads to more unsafe abortions and puts women’s lives and health at risk, and doesn’t actually decrease the number of abortions that are sought out, how can we justify it? Conservatives, chime in on social media or in the comments section for this episode at makeamericarelatepodcast.com. I really truly want to hear your thoughts.
If you’re loving the show and haven’t left it a 5-star review on iTunes yet, go do it! And as I said in the beginning, every listener who shares the show on social media, along with an explanation for why you think people should tune in, will get a personal shout-out on the show in the coming weeks. Make sure to tag the show on Twitter and Facebook, and if you share on Instagram, you can tag me at samiaxi.
For a transcript of the show and some resources on what we know about the effects of abortion policy on society, go to makeamericarelatepodcat.com.
Next week I’ll be bringing you the two organizers of Better Angels Media, John Wood Jr and Ciaran O’Connor, to discuss what’s going down with the Supreme Court - something that’s weighing on a lot of people’s minds right now, especially those for whom abortion rights are a big issue. These two gents are responsible for bringing Make America Relate Again into the Better Angels Media family, and I’m so thrilled to have them sharing their ideas on the show. To find out more about Better Angels, go to better-angels.org.
Many thanks to EMG Recording Studios in Baltimore for recording this conversation, Dukyun Studio in Seoul for recording my intro and outro segments, Dani Valdizan for creating the theme music, and Christopher Gilroy for mixing and mastering this episode.
This is Make America Relate Again. See you next week.